‘Highly anticipated’ might easily rank alongside ‘critically acclaimed’ in the lexicon of over-used music PR phrases. However, both seem appropriate when considering the new single, “We the People”, from Kristina Train and then her fine debut album back in 2009, Spilt Milk. I recall reviewing that album for ConsequenceofSound and being impressed by the maturity and range of the Savannah, Georgia-raised singer. You can still find the review here, sans imagery. Sadly, the record received little marketing support, however deserving. A stint as a touring singer and violinist, no less, with Herbie Hancock followed and then a second album, Dark Black, in 2013; a record laced with delicious noir and classic Americana pop. Here's a great example:
Since then, Kristina Train has been on something of a hiatus, though all the while growing her individual sense of songwriting and style. She still has a delivery that evokes the classic singers of times past; Dusty Springfield and Carole King especially come to mind. Her new single out today, “We the People”, thoughtfully takes its cue from the historical values of America founding fathers and points to the reality of today; sentiments that are deceptively couched within the singer’s lush tones: “What’s the price of our freedom? / It’s the light we possess.” It’s a heartfelt call for a more perfect union. The song’s discordant ending echoes the chaos of the American political landscape just as the brainwashing images from the 1974 conspiracy thriller, The Parallax View, that punctuate the video to the song, present an unravelling of the immediate post-Kennedy era.
Once live gigs are back on the agenda, I hope Kristina Train might grace these shores along with her ace group of musicians. One transatlantic crossing that Covid-19 has prevented is that of Kate Davis, who was billed to play at The Lexington, London on 25 July, followed by North Yorkshire’s Deer Shed Festival. The NYC based artiste and one-time jazz prodigy turned indie rock acolyte released her warmly-received debut LP, Trophy, last November ruminating on life, self-worth, identity and loss. Here is a taste of what we are missing.
“rbbts” is named after a Soho, NYC restaurant, now closed, which Davis frequented almost as a safe harbour during what she describes as a time of "heartbreak and existential dread." The video for "rbbts" is both romantic and dark as it depicts the pain of ending a relationship in a series of linked vignettes. I love the way the melody takes subtle, unexpected turns and vocally her swoops and trills are wonderfully affecting. The remaining 11 tracks on Trophy are equally searching and ultimately Trophy is a very fulfilling album.
Shifting the spotlight now to home-based female artistes, I was entranced by Denney who was one of this week’s Fresh Faves on Fresh on the Net. She has been writing down songs and lyrics since aged 11, so has pages and pages of inspiration tucked away to call on. It wasn’t until last year though that she says she found the confidence to showcase her music publicly. A professional background in sound editing has given her audio skills that she puts to good effect in her music. Collaborating with friends helped to grow her confidence and approaching the 'dreaded age of 30', she realised that if she didn't properly do the one thing she loved, then at some point she would really regret it. She has gone on to put out 4 singles since late 2019.
“That’s a Start” has the feel of a personal diary entry. The song charts a friend’s break up and struggle to move on which can make you do silly things to try to get closer to that person again, however much you're pushed you away. Denney has a gift for storytelling that is matched by a delicate, die-away vocal tone and a fine sense of melody and structure. Originally from Hampshire, Emma Denney decided to use her surname as a single moniker as her friends had always called her that from an early age. It may be a cool name but the downside is that searches will also bring up a Leeds DJ with the same name. Maybe they could combine on a cover of Blondie’s “Denis” (pronounced Denise). Then again there really is only one (Emma) Denney.
Hattie Briggs has been busy during lockdown with a regular Wednesday evening streaming show which you can catch up with on her website or Facebook page. Originally from Chichester but currently based in London, Briggs was famously invited to support renowned English tenor Alfie Boe on his 21-date 2019 nationwide tour, after he heard her busking at Paddington Station the previous autumn. Taking in a BBC Breakfast TV spot en route, this culminated in a Royal Albert Hall show, at which she and her band received a standing ovation; quite possibly a unique occasion for a support act in this famous venue.
There’s a timeless quality to her work and the high standards Hattie Briggs has set herself, vocally and as a songwriter, are continued with her latest single, “Don’t Cry Until It’s Over”. She co-wrote this song with her cellist sidekick, Jasmine Scott Neale, Patch Boshell (producer) and Angus Parkin (guitarist) one afternoon. Hattie explains: “We wrote the song in response to an Orla Gartland track called "Inevitable" which is about the feeling of knowing that a relationship is coming to an end. But we turned that idea on its head and wrote about that theme from a different angle with more hope of turning the situation around.” As ever, the result is both polished and emotive.
The ladies have held sway today so let’s finish with a bloke, Alex Hall, with the appropriately-titled “I Won’t Bow Out”. In company with Denney, Alex was another to make this week’s Fresh on the Net’s Fresh Faves. Any song that can possibly begin with the line “A consolation bacon sandwich…” as its opening gambit gets my vote any day. The song breezes along nicely with shades of The Beach Boys to its strong singalong chorus.
Given Alex’s full-blown allegiance to AFC Bournemouth who are currently staring relegation from the Premier League in the face with just two games left, there is a clear sub-text to the song about feeling down but never out. I remember going to the ground with my old mate from Exeter Uni, Trev, to see Bournemouth play during the 1972/3 season. In those days the ground was known as Dean Court. Today it’s the Vitality stadium and fans might just need health insurance for the final two games. I hope, like Alex, Bournemouth won’t bow out though.